If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, a cornerstone of your care involves regularly measuring blood sugar.
One of the biggest challenges that people with diabetes face is tracking blood sugar consistently and accurately. This is especially challenging in certain situations, like during exercise. Whether you want to “give it your all,” or just engage in moderate physical activity, you need to make sure you are tracking blood sugar levels to avoid hypoglycemia. A new technology may be a game-changer.
The new paper-based sensor patch was developed by researchers at Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York, and is the first device specifically designed for use during exercise, when monitoring for hypoglycemia is crucial. It allows for non-invasive monitoring of blood glucose in human sweat. Each patch is a wearable single-use biosensor that adheres to the skin like a standard adhesive bandage. The patch then wicks sweat into a reservoir that monitors glucose levels.
Though there are other non-invasive sweat-measuring glucometers out there, many fall short when it comes to precise monitoring because they fail to consistently collect enough sweat for analysis, run into difficulties because of sweat sample evaporation, or require an unreasonable amount of time in order to collect sufficient amounts of sweat for accurate measurements.
In the early 2000s, the FDA approved the GlucoWatch, which used an electrical current to get a sample of glucose from the body; the glucose was then measured by sensors in the back of the watch. Patients found that because the watch had to be worn tightly, they developed an annoying and persistent rash. The device also required warm up time – as much as three hours. If you had hairy arms, you had to shave the area under the watch to prevent interference with readings. If you were sweaty, the sensor wasn't accurate.
In 2016, Wearable Technologies reviewed a couple of new, non-invasive glucose monitoring devices:
DIA-VIT is a non-invasive device that interfaces with your smart device so you can track glucose level fluctuations; SugarBeat, a non-invasive patch that has an electronic sensor, detects real-time measurements of blood glucose levels every five minutes. It also interfaces with your smart device; and GlucoTrack, clips to your earlobe and uses three technologies to calculate weighted averages of blood sugar levels.
Each of these technologies has ongoing issues that interfere with precise, dependable readings. A 2017 review of non-invasive glucose monitoring devices by Gadgets & Wearables offers some of the latest glucometers that interface with smart devices and apps. Still, these are not optimal for monitoring during exercise.
There was a rumor that Apple was developing a wearable glucose-measuring device that would track blood sugar without the need to “break skin.” Their efforts come after Google tried to develop a contact lens to measure glucose in tears, but after Novartis licensed the technology, the project went silent. Still, Tim Cook was seen with a portable glucose monitoring prototype so the project may yet come to fruition.
The new patches aren’t on the market yet, but they are likely the first in a series of new efficient technologies for the management of diabetes, allowing for non-invasive glucose monitoring, and precise measurements using sweat — a perfect match for an active person!